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Blog Epic 3-Day Hiking Guide To Yosemite National Park In The Summer
Ciara Turner-Ewert | 06/28/2022Family Friendly, Hiking, Nature, Seasons, Waterfalls |   

Epic 3-Day Hiking Guide To Yosemite National Park in the Summer

Summer — the season of endless family picnics, camping, kayaking on the lake, and excellent hiking conditions — is arguably one of the best times to visit Yosemite National Park. The perfect combination of pristine weather conditions and never-ending sunlight allows tourists to push their boundaries as they explore the vast Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Not to mention you’ll find a wider range of outdoor activities in the park to accommodate for more adventures. For example, areas that were closed for the winter like Tioga Road are now open for summer play. From bike riding (which is available all year long) to floating down the Merced River, there’s something in Yosemite National Park for everyone to enjoy.

If you’re looking for the best attractions to explore this summer, keep on scrolling to find out more. Use the itinerary below to customize your experience in the park and rearrange or add hikes based on your schedule.

Remember when hiking to “leave no trace” (aka pack out all your trash) so we can continue to protect and preserve this stunning park.  (Editor's note: click here to learn more about how to Recreate Responsibly in and around Yosemite National Park.)

Summer is this national park’s peak season. During this time the Southern Gate located near Oakhurst attracts visitors from all over the world to witness the sun kissed park under the best weather conditions. Think average high temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and average low temperatures around 53 degrees Fahrenheit, points out Weather U.S. With that in mind, you’ll want to pack sun protection including sunblock, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of water.

Don’t forget to pack a bathing suit and towel so you can take a quick dip in one of the many swimming holes in Yosemite after hiking!

Summer Yosemite Hiking Guide

Before heading into the park, you’ll want to stop by Raley’s and stock up hiking essentials for the long weekend. Think plenty of water, snacks (i.e. granola bars, trail mix, fruit, etc.), lunch items (i.e. salads, sandwiches, etc.), cutlery, and anything else you may fancy. Load up your reusable cooler and backpack, then drive up the mountainside to Yosemite as the first day in the park is all about exploring Mariposa Grove.

Mariposa Grove is one of the many regions in Yosemite National Park. Other regions you’ll find are Hetch Hetchy, The Valley, Toulumme Meadows, Tioga Pass, and the backcountry. Mariposa Grove is famous for its towering sequoia trees. It has a beautiful newly created facility where you’ll find information regarding the hikes, rangers, well maintained restrooms, water fountains, and the free shuttle into the grove.

Shuttles run about every 10 minutes from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm starting May 15th until September 7th. The last bus leaves the groves at 8:00 pm, so don’t be late!

Summer Yosemite Hiking Guide

Some of the hiking trails I recommend exploring in Mariposa Grove are:

  • Big Trees Loop Trail (0.3 mile loop, easy hiking difficulty). If you’re looking for an extended leg stretch rather than a hike to experience the gorgeous Giant Sequoia trees, then this is the perfect trail to explore. The trail is completely accessible and paved as it winds through the wooded sequoias. Here you’ll find interpretative displays explaining the fauna and flora and the famous Fallen Monarch.   
  • Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (2 mile loop, moderate hiking difficulty). For those wanting to extend the Big Trees Loop Trail a little further, continue hiking to the Grizzly Giant Loop Trail. It takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete depending on your hiking speed and features even more famous sequoias. Among these towering trees you’ll find the impressive Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and a sequoia with a walkable cave in its trunk called the California Tunnel Tree.
  • Mariposa Grove Trail (7 miles out and back, strenuous hiking difficulty). This is one of my personal favorites in Mariposa Grove as the trail ends at a stunning vista, Wawona Point. Along the winding hiking trail you’ll also see many of the same iconic trees from the previous two hikes and much more.   
  • Guardians Loop Trail (6.5 mile loop, strenuous hiking difficulty). This footpath is very similar to Mariposa Grove Trail, but instead of hiking out to Wawona Point, this trail ends with a 1.5 mile loop. What I love about this trail is that it’s easy to combine it with the Mariposa Grove Trail by following the path that leads to Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree. You’ll also find the Mariposa Grove Cabin and if you veer off the path you’ll see a tree that’s shaped like a telescope called the Telescope Tree.

Before you head to your hotel, grab dinner at the Cowboy Tavern, located at Sierra Sky Ranch where you’ll find iconic cowboy dishes like shepherd’s pie and yummy fish tacos.

Summer Yosemite Hiking Guide

The second day in the park is all about exploring the beautiful Wawona area. Here you’ll find gorgeous views and refreshing waterholes perfect for the summer heat. For those looking for a heart-pumping climb, Chilnualna Falls is one of the best hikes in the area. It features three waterfalls, various cascades, and spectacular views of the Wawona area. This 8.4 mile out-and-back trail takes about 4 to 6 hours to complete depending on your speed.

You may be tired after an intense day of hiking, so grab a takeout dinner from your favorite restaurant in town and head to the Queen’s Inn By The River. Then unwind as you listen to live music and devour your food on a warm Saturday summer night.  

Summer Yosemite Hiking Guide

Photo Credit: Local Freshies

Whether you have a half or full day in the park, Swinging Bridge Trail is an easy 1.2 mile out-and-back trail to complete. The dirt path is flat and wide as it meanders along parts of the Merced River. It ends at a gently swaying swinging bridge (hence the name) and a glistening swimming hole perfect for a hot summer day. To reach the bridge takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

Get to know the Merced River by swimming in the water, sunbathing on the giant rocks, or exploring the river bank. Make sure to bring picnic supplies as this area is a popular picnic spot. Then, after a day’s swim stop by Casa Velasco Mexican Food for some homemade fajitas, tacos, and more, followed by Reimer’s Candies and Gifts for a generous scoop of ice cream to keep you cool.

The Queen’s Inn By The River is a quaint inn located in the heart of Oakhurst. It perches quietly beside the Fresno River and offers guests a serene ambiance for a morning cup of coffee. What I love most about this hotel is that it’s family-run and the décor embodies a romantic mountain getaway.

This hotel also has a lively beer garden on Saturday nights during summer. But if beer isn’t your jam, don’t worry. Less than 100 feet away is the Idle Hour Winery & Kitchen where you can grab a glass of wine and some yummy brunch.

Ciara is a travel writer, health & wellness writer, certified wellness & transformative travel coach, and a world traveler who’s visited over 30 countries. Her work has been seen in USA Today, Essence, Travel Noire, and many other publications. When she’s not writing for publications or coaching, Ciara is traveling the world with her amazing husband, eating chocolate chip cookies, and writing for a wellness travel blog she founded, Wellness Travel Diaries. On her blog, you’ll find adrenaline-seeking inspiration, outdoorsy adventures, drool-worthy allergy-friendly eats, and tried and true wellness hacks.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
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